To find the breeze chilling the back of our necks, we had to go Predator on it: The Seek Thermal smartphone accessory and app work together to provide a thermal image on an iOS or Android smartphone. Looking beyond the surface to sources of heat makes you a better hunter, even if the game is warm air that’s escaping, or just a black lab getting into trouble in your yard at night.
Seek uses a 12-micron chip inside a magnesium housing to display temperature variations at 32,000 pixels. All you have to do is plug it into the port of your smartphone. The camera comes up short if you take into consideration the resolution of modern devices, but it’s good enough to provide a clear image of what you’re scanning. But if the images get too fuzzy, there is a split screen option that turns half of the smartphone’s display into a thermal image while leaving the other side unaltered, so you’ll have context around the problem.
We directed the Seek to the sieve-like wall, and the phone’s screen illustrated the problem quickly. The poorly installed batt insulation in an exterior wall slumped down, leaving about 10 inches of framing open to the whims of fall breezes. Seek actually showed the line where a 69-degree wall becomes 45 degrees. Once you have the image or video, you can save it to show a contractor, or just email it.
We spent a few hours around the house finding air leaks in the ceilings of the upper floor, around the attic pull-down stairs, and near windows. The app is intuitive, and there are a few built-in options that were helpful, including the spot setting that puts crosshairs on the screen to determine temperature readout of a specific thing. Seek can find hotspots on grills, and it can even help you cheer up a 3 year old with a fever by taking a thermal selfie. The only nuisance was the almost constant shutter sound the camera emits as it calibrates, and it never really stops. At $200, the Seek is more affordable than other thermal scanners. As a note: Air leakage and poor insulation is a big deal in a house. According to the EPA, most people have enough of both to equal the air loss of having a window open all year round. And while it’s not cheap, the Seek can show you where energy is leaving your house — your money flying right out the window.